Correspondence

Spirituality and the Russian Armed Forces

Letter From Moscow

The once-mighty Russian Army is in a state of disarray. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it lost much of its substance and all of its moral bearings. So far, nothing has replaced the latter. To compound matters, the citizenry, once proud of its armed forces, tends to look on them with disdain or even hostility, especially the young. Meanwhile, Russia's woeful economic state has made the ruble almost worthless and seriously affected military pay, causing a drastic decline in living conditions. Field grade officers up to the rank of colonel are living with their families in boxcars, while many company grade officers have been reduced to tents—tents, even in the Russian winter. We do not yet have reliable figures on the death toll of infants and small children under these conditions, but they must be enormous given the severe shortage of pharmaceuticals and medical facilities. The senior officers of the army are not faring so poorly. The generals' access to military resources that can be sold on the open market has enabled some of them to survive quite well. Not all of them are crooked, of course, but the temptations are great.

It is against this background that some of the army's responsible leaders speak of "the spiritual rebirth of the Russian armed forces." As the leaders put it, the armed forces have lost the old ethics (of the Communist Party) while a new ethics has yet to appear. To aid in "giving...

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